Gov't to stop Project NOAH due to 'lack of funds'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The government will scrap its flagship disaster management initiative, the Department of Science and Technology's Project NOAH or Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards, starting March due to "lack of funds" for the program.

This was confirmed by Project NOAH Executive Director Mahar Lagmay to Rappler on Sunday, January 29. Lagmay said the program will only run until February 28 since there are no more funds for it.

Lagmay said they were informed that their request for extenstion would not be approved.

"We were told verbally that our request for extension will not be approved. It is one month before February 28 and it takes time to sign documents and have funds transferred to UP where we work. Therefore, there will be at least 2-3 months before the scientists/researchers will get paid," Lagmay said in a Facebook post.

In 2016, he said scientists working for the project received their pay after 5 long months because their proposal was also initially disapproved.

"Last year, it was 5 months before the scientists got paid because our proposal to continue was disapproved. We just made an appeal. But we lost 40 well-trained, skilled, and experienced scientists. Two years ago, researchers' salaries were delayed by 3-4 months. How will they eat? For those researchers who have families, what will they provide to their children?" he said.

He, however, clarified this began under the Aquino administration, when mid-level officials of the DOST, who are still in government, told them there were no funds for the project.

"Since two years ago na po kami sinasabihan ng mid-level government officials of DOST na walang pondo ang Project NOAH. Aquino administration pa. These officials are still with the government until now," Lagmay said.

(Since two years ago, mid-level government officials of the DOST have been telling us that there are no funds for Project NOAH. Since the Aquino administration. These officials are still with the government until now.)

The program was established in 2012 in response to former president Benigno Aquino III's instructions to provide "a more accurate, integrated, and responsive disaster prevention and mitigation system, especially in high-risk areas" throughout the country.

According to its website, NOAH's mission is "to undertake disaster science research and development, advance the use of cutting edge technologies, and recommend innovative information services in government's disaster prevention and mitigation efforts."

The program is designed to help address the nation's perennial problems brought about by ill-informed decisions during disasters. Through its website and social media accounts, the project provides real-time weather data and high-resolution flood, landslide, and storm surge hazard maps.

In August 2016, Project NOAH was named as the Top Smart City Initiative for Public Safety in the IDC Smart City Asia Pacific Awards. – Rappler.com